The studio recipe for Paper Mache


In my studio we make paper Mache by using shredded office waste paper, and used egg-cartonspaper Mache by using shredded office waste paper, and used egg-cartons. Any paper can be used to make paper Mache, however, it is best not to use newspaper as the ink tends to run and leave a black mess everywhere. We use the shredded office paper to make a light dough (almost white in color and gentle), and use the egg-cartons  to make a dark stronger dough. Both types of dough can be kneaded together to form yet a third dough that is also quite strong and resembles granite in color.

The studio Basic Recipe for paper Mache:

1. Soak the paper/cardboard in a bucket filled with boiling water, then add 1 cup of anti-bacterial soap. The soap stops the dough from fermenting and developing bad odors, especially in the summer. Paper should be left to soak for 3-4 hours. egg-cartons should be left to soak overnight or for 12 hours.
2. Once the paper has soaked, it needs to be ground-up into “crumbs”. There are two ways of doing this:
a) Strain the water out of the paper (using a strainer or some cloth) and put it into a bowl. Using your hands, crumble the paper into small crumbs.
b) Pour out about a 1/5 of the water in the bucket. Using a drill with a paint-mixing drill bit, grind the paper in the bucket to a pulp. Strain the water from the pulp, straining small amounts at a time till you are left with the paper crumbs.
3. To every 2 cups of paper crumbs, mix 1.5 cups of white plastic glue. The secret to doing this is adding the glue in intervals, kneading till all the glue is absorbed, and then adding more glue. The goal is to end up with dough that is homogenous and no longer sticks to your hands, but is still soft and palpable. If your dough is hard and brittle, add more glue to soften it.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:     What is the difference between white glue and wallpaper paste/glue?

A:     Wallpaper paste is a smoother glue, but has a tendency to yellow in time and give the finished work a yellowish color. As an adhesive, it is inferior to white glue and resulting sculptures are weaker and more fragil. White glue helps strengthen the finished construction, making it more reliable without any discoloration, which is why so many people prefer it. For those of you who   wish to try using wallpaper paste, I recommend that you combine both glues, half and half.

Q:     Why shouldn’t I use starch glue (made from rice/ flour/ corn starch) or any other edible substance?
A:     The reason for this is that these substances attract insects, and we would have to use poisonous chemicals in order to repel them. There is no gain in using starch glue, as this would also demand more maintenance of our work in the long run.

Q:     Can I add Plaster of Paris to the papier-mâché dough?
A:     You may add Plaster of Paris to the dough but take in consideration that it absorbs water and hardens fast-20,30 minutes,  if you are already using such materials, I suggest that you use cellulite, poly-filler, or joint-compound, as these materials will allow you to create a heavier, Dough that is subtle and easier sand, and has a much longer drying time then Plaster.

Q:      Can I dry my paper Mache in home oven?
A:    Yes you can, make sure the temperature   does not go over 50 cl.

Liat Binjamini Ariel, Israel


Liat Binyamini Ariel is an artist and illustrator, teaches creative workshops in papier-mâché,  recycled art, and puppetry in her studio. She has also illustrated childrens’ books.

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